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WHYY Opinion Response: Affordable Housing Near Lea School

In a 27 January Opinion Piece in WHYY/PlanPhilly, Leonard Bonarek suggests that in light of Penn's proposed investment and support for the Lea School and concerns about displacement, the City of Philadelphia should consider redeveloping the Tennis Courts and Community Garden at 47th and Spruce as "as a new mixed-income, mixed-use building that will better address community needs." This blog post offers a brief GCCA response.

As an organization of individuals and families living and working here since the mid-1950s, the Garden Court Community Association (GCCA) welcomes and appreciates diverse opinions. Our neighborhood character is built by thoughtful, hard-working individual characters. One of those individuals is a GCCA member whose opinion - properly acknowledged as his own - was published today on WHYY/PlanPhilly. Prices and rents have been steadily increasing in West Philadelphia, and Garden Court has been no exception. This requires provocative ideas and solutions for current and future residents. However, as an organization, we have not discussed and do not endorse the idea of redeveloping the Community Tennis Courts and Community Garden - which GCCA was instrumental in creating - as part of a housing solution.

The Planning Commission's Phila2035 initiative was a community-driven and community-led planning effort, where members of the community could have their say in shaping the future of their neighborhood. This process culminated in 2019 with the implementation of corrective zoning maps. As these updates to zoning were made, there were 3 overarching values: to PROTECT our green spaces, to REFLECT the existing buildings, and to GROW housing options to accommodate more neighbors. The tennis courts and garden improve the lives of neighbors and Lea students alike; redeveloping them without thoughtful consideration would directly undermine the first of these values.

The GCCA welcomes the addition of below market-rate housing options and urges their construction. There are multiple vacant or underutilized lots within the boundaries of Garden Court and within a couple blocks of the Lea School that could accommodate mixed-income housing. We believe that investment of public resources will be important to bring it to fruition. If you would like to be part of that solution, please email We look forward to future conversations with those that seek to provide housing to those with the greatest need.

Frank Allegra and Elyana Tarlow, Co-Presidents

Jonas Maciunas, Zoning and Development Chair


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